There were two prominent features that appeared in the recent Lebanese elections; the Sunni flood and the Aounist ebb. The elections showed that the Aounist current is not a real political current like many believed it to be but merely talks a lot of hot air.
As for the Sunnis, they have never been so united. They overwhelmingly voted for the March 14 Coalition to the extent that leaders of other Sunni, neutral and opposition currents disappeared. The second feature of the Sunnis’ election results is the high turnout to the elections, which surpassed even the elections that took place shortly after the assassination of Rafik Hariri. What is the secret? Why do the Sunnis seem to be more sectarian than usual?
The answer lies in one specific incident: Hezbollah’s militia attacks on Sunni areas in West Beirut. Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah added fuel to the fire when he appeared, before the elections, celebrating the first anniversary of the day his forces seized the Sunni areas. With pride he boasted that what his forces did on May 7 will forever remain a glorious memory. I don’t think that the Sunnis in Lebanon and in other parts of the Arab world have ever felt as insulted as they did that day. Instead of trying to heal the wounds, and instead of admitting his mistakes, he hurt the pride of Sunnis by glorifying a savage day when his forces launched an attack on them, killing, wounding, and burning everything and then raising Hezbollah’s yellow flag on the victims’ balconies. That was enough to push the Sunnis, even those who are not sectarian or those who do not usually vote, or who vote for Sunni opposition leaders, to vote against the March 8 Alliance headed by Hezbollah.
Because Saad Hariri has united the Sunnis more so than his father did, he can say that he deserves to lead the party after his leadership was questioned after having inherited the position following the death of his father. The recent election results not only installed Saad as the leader of the March 14 Coalition but more importantly as a real leader of the Sunnis, a sect that used to be described as the least involved in political struggles as it is considered an extension of the Arab Sunni ocean. The surprising success in the elections was the fruit of political work in cooperation with other allies. Nobody thought that they would win, especially not the opposition. It took the opposition 24 hours to think up an excuse to give the masses regarding why it failed to win the elections.
Saad Hariri has been placed in a stronger position politically but it is also one that is more difficult. He now has a responsibility to form an efficient government, and one that is directly responsible for eliminating the sectarian unrest that has prevailed in Lebanon since the assassination of his father. He is also directly responsible for the ongoing International Tribunal and this puts him at risk of internal conflict. The most dangerous of all of his responsibilities is the way in which he deals with Hezbollah, which practically means dealing with all problems: the suspension of government, inciting civil strife, rejecting the Tribunal, the rejection of the Security Council’s Resolution 1559 and the threat against anyone who utters a word about disarmament. Leading the March 14 Coalition will not be any easier in terms of sacrifices and bloodshed. Nevertheless, we believe that it is Saad Hariri’s choice to follow in the footsteps of his father by keeping away from political sectarianism, even though it has granted him a victory. He must bridge the gap with his opponents, Hezbollah in particular, which has committed a set of serious mistakes on both the national and regional levels. Working towards ending sectarian conflict and creating a new relationship with Hezbollah are more important than simply being content with the victory of the elections. Lebanon is not a country to be ruled by the half-plus-one equation or by an absolute majority or even by parliament, but by a set of political institutions as long as they understand one another.